Characterization of metal/metalloid concentrations in fjords and bays on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska


A baseline environmental characterization of Chrome and Dogfish bays on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, was conducted using a sediment quality triad approach. Resident fish and blue mussel body burdens were also assessed. The data was derived from a larger study that assessed seven distinct water bodies on the Kenai Peninsula’s north side, draining into Kachemak Bay. Sampling sites for water quality measurements and sediment were randomized within each embayment. Concentrations of 140 organic and elemental contaminants were analyzed. Habitat parameters (depth, salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, sediment grain size, and organic carbon content) that influence elemental distribution were also measured at each sampling site. Chrome Bay and Dogfish Bay open into lower Cook Inlet and had coarser sediments than the other bays studied. Concentrations of chromium and nickel were extremely high in Chrome Bay. Concentrations were several times higher than observed concentrations seen throughout other locations in south-central Alaska. Other elemental concentrations varied between and within bays, with several locations exceeding lower sediment quality guidelines. Whole sediment amphipod toxicity bioassays were conducted with sediments from Chrome Bay. No sample exhibited significant mortality or sublethal effects. Body burdens of three species of fish and mussels collected in Chrome Bay did not exhibit elevated concentrations relative to other studies in Kachemak Bay or the Alaska Dept. of Environmental Conservation, Fish Monitoring Program. Despite the very high concentrations of Cr and Ni in the sediments, the metals do not appear to be bioavailable to resident biota.

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The Kachemak Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and NCCOS Kasitsna Bay Lab provided essential logistical support. Hans Pedersen and Mike Geagel supported all field missions and vessel operations.

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Hartwell, S.I., Dasher, D. & Lomax, T. Characterization of metal/metalloid concentrations in fjords and bays on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Environ Monit Assess 191, 264 (2019).

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  • Kenai Peninsula, AK
  • Metal contaminants
  • Chromium
  • Nickel
  • Toxicity
  • Body burden